10 years ago, Portugal decriminalized all drugs. It worked.

At a news conference marking the 10th anniversary of Portugal’s bold experiment in drug policy — the decriminalization of all drugs — Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, said, “There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal.”

The number of addicts who repeatedly use hard and intravenous drugs has fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people.

Goulao, a medical doctor, stressed that treatment decriminalization was not solely responsible for the drop, but that treatment programs and risk reduction policies also played a role.

As E.D. Cain wrote at Forbes.com:

Many of these innovative treatment procedures would not have emerged if addicts had continued to be arrested and locked up rather than treated by medical experts and psychologists. Currently 40,000 people in Portugal are being treated for drug abuse. This is a far cheaper, far more humane way to tackle the problem. Rather than locking up 100,000 criminals, the Portuguese are working to cure 40,000 patients and fine-tuning a whole new canon of drug treatment knowledge at the same time.

None of this is possible when waging a war.

A group of former BC attorneys general yesterday proposed the decriminalization of marijuana, a policy that probably enjoys majority support in Canada despite decades of anti-pot propaganda. But few North Americans have the gumption to propose legalization of the hardest drugs. The Portugese experience shows that decriminalization of highly addictive drugs  may show the greatest social benefit, since the addictive quality of those drugs gives crime lords their greatest leverage.

All this should be obvious to a laissez faire economist like Stephen Harper. Instead, his response to the monumental failure of the war on drugs is to escalate it. The Conservative Party of Canada talks a good line about personal liberty, but finds the use of police power to enforce their personal morality irresistible.

H/T: Shine Boy.